Rue Bliss Ain’t Happiness
And we’re talking traffic, not shopping
Do you feel that stop signs are suggestions vs. requirements? That stop lights are advisements vs. law? That one-way streets are too restrictive? Then you’d love Beirut driving.
No rules, no though, all balls and bravery, Beiruties don’t slow for stop signs, don’t stop for stop lights, and find one-ways’ disgusting instead of directional. Into any intersection, at anytime, they drive, not slowing for others, not even looking in your direction less they show a sign of weakness and be required to stop. If you stop, a chorus of honks erupt, people impatient and annoyed that you might respect a red instead of thinking green.
Maybe it’s a result of the civil war, when kidnappings at red lights were common and snipers popped caps in stopped cars, maybe its just because they can, but Beiruties make driving a blood-boiling fear-inducing white-knuckled experience for anyone not used to the tight spaces and constant high-stakes game of chicken that automobiling requires in this small city.
And everyone drives here. There are no buses really, no public transport to talk of, and with a such a hilly city, its one car per person everywhere. Not only does this produce crippling gridlock, especially with the lack of road rules, there is a constant smell of exhaust hanging over the city. Exhaust that forms a backdrop of smog when the wind doesn’t blow.
So do yourself a favor, get your boss to drive everywhere when you are here. If you’re luck like me, and he’s Egyptian, you’ll be safe and happy, and he’ll think he’s home.